Friday, August 30, 2013

EdWeb: A Massive Open Online Classroom Geared Towards Teachers

By Sean Scarpiello

As Massive Open Online Classrooms (MOOCs) are quickly becoming popular in the field of education, we are beginning to see many benefits for students. However, with all of this innovative technology being geared towards students, it is easy to forget about the teachers who continue to fill classrooms across the world. A new educational venture called EdWeb is aimed at solving this problem. EdWeb is a Princeton based professional and social network designed specifically for educators of all types. Overall, the network has a lot to offer educators which help to improve education, all for no cost.

To access EdWeb, teachers simply need to visit the EdWeb site (see below) and register for free. This then opens educators up to a variety of different webinars which are held almost every day. These webinars are offered at no cost and allow teachers from all over the world to communicate and collaborate on different ideas. Some webinar topics are open discussions on topics such as gaming education and technology driven education, while others have topics based on reviving students from the summer slide and tips for improving overall math performance. In whichever topic educators choose to attend, they are sure to leave the webinar with some great ideas. Beyond this, teachers have the ability to collaborate with other teachers from all over the world. Here, teachers can learn about different teaching styles and techniques used elsewhere to test on their class. This then allows teachers to pick and choose different ways to teach a class so that they can perfect their teaching methods to best fit their students. By taking an all-encompassing view of EdWeb, we can see that it is essentially a MOOC aimed at teaching and improving educators.

In addition to the free webinars, EdWeb also allows educators to set up individual groups for discussion. These communities of teachers allow for discussion in a wide variety of different topics. Some teachers set up communities with schools or districts to communicate, while other communities are based on innovative educational ideas. These type of communities are based off of topics such as teaching autistic students, online gaming education, exploring eBooks, technology in the classroom, and even more. Again, teachers have the opportunity to share their ideas and opinions with fellow educators so students everywhere can benefit. This again acts like a MOOC in that teachers are learning about the pros and cons of different techniques, as well as collaborating with teachers who have years of experience. Such an idea will be rapidly successful as teachers can pool their years of experience together and hone their craft, all through EdWeb.

Overall, EdWeb is a fantastic innovation because while we head in the direction of MOOCs, teachers still fill our classrooms. Therefore, EdWeb acts as a free MOOC just for teachers to learn. In the long run, I am sure we will be able to see the amount of success the teachers who utilize EdWeb will have in their classrooms. Through online collaboration, teachers will be able to get new ideas to bring into the classroom and share with their students. Ultimately, we can all benefit from this technology driven idea which improves education for students across the world, all at no cost.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Communication 101

Like many who are involved in the field of education, I'm always looking for ways to make things more efficient and effective, and the number one thing I come back to that needs improvement, no matter what subject matter or field, is communication.

We often take for granted our ability to communicate with others, and can easily assume that because we can speak, write, and read, we've effectively learned what we need to in order to communicate. However, interactions that take place even in daily life can easily grow confusing or frustrating if you don't have effective communication skills. Thanks to phones and the internet, our communication skills are becoming more and more dependent on our ability to clearly type what's in our head, including the tone we want to convey with our message. This leaves a fair amount of room for errors when the message is interpreted by the reader(s) though, unless you are an adept communicator.

In order to help clear up communication issues across the board, I'll be posting some Communication 101 to help encourage clear and effective communication.

Today's Communication 101 has to do with how to handle conflict or disagreements, and takes a look at human psychology to offer some advice that you can easily apply when in a situation of conflict:

Humans, by nature, want to protect our egos. We want to believe that the way we act and live is right, and we are so invested in the protection of our SELF that our gut reaction when we are confronted is immediate denial. This has nothing to do with overall intelligence: when someone challenges your lifestyle, your interactions with others, your opinions, etc… you are going to immediately want to prove them wrong - after all, who wants to believe that they have been doing the wrong thing? And the funny thing is, that it probably won’t matter what facts, figures or statistics they throw out at you - it will all be perceived as an attack which you need to ward off, and your marvelous brain will help you think of a billion reasons why they are wrong and you are right.

This applies to everyone.

Think about this next time you want to change someone’s mind. Think about how you can present your case not as an attack, but as valuable information that might improve their life, and the lives of those around them. And next time someone confronts you, see if you can’t catch yourself throwing up your auto-defense and stop to consider what they’re trying to tell you.

Try using “I” statements to determine the difference between what you FEEL and what the facts are. It is okay to acknowledge that the things someone has said have made you upset. Remember that it is easier to put up your defenses or go on the attack if you feel emotionally compromised. Know when to take a break from an upsetting encounter so you can digest your emotions rather than letting your emotions rule your reactions.

Avoid "you," statements, and do not assume that you know how the other person feels or what they are thinking. In fact, you might even want to be forward and ASK how they feel or what they are thinking. Ask them to elaborate on points you may not be clear on, or to explain why or how they have come to that conclusion. Try to ensure that you have a full understanding of their perspective before you proceed. Do not dismiss anything they say - you wouldn't like it if someone dismissed something you said.

Be respectful, open-minded, and considerate. The golden rule most definitely applies - only speak to others the way which you would want to be spoken to.

For more information on why your brain works to protect your ego and sense of self, I recommend "A Mind of It's Own," by Cordelia Fine.

For high school level lesson plans on conflict resolution, I recommend this fantastic resource by the West Virginia Department of Education.

For more information on conflict resolution and other Communication 101, stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Scholly: The Educational App that Reduces Costs

By Sean Scarpiello

Currently, higher education costs are becoming more and more expensive, thereby causing students and their parents to be extremely frugal with their money. While many students are seeking out larger in-state universities with lower costs, others are searching for different scholarships. Many four year colleges offer scholarships, but for the most part, these scholarships do not cover all of the costs associated with higher education. To combat this, students and parents spend hours online searching for and applying to a number of different scholarships. Recently, however, there has been a new app that helps students and parents avoid the intense hunt for scholarships and reduce the stress that comes with it.

The app is called Scholly and is available in the App Store and on Google Play for 99 cents. The app works by collecting a student’s personal information in areas such as race, GPA, major, and more. Then, the app filters these factors through a database and gives students a list of scholarships that the student qualifies for. Many students would be surprised that there are a lot of scholarships available which often go undiscovered. This app is fantastic for today’s incoming college freshmen, as there is a huge number of scholarships being offered to this demographic. Scholly works especially well for this demographic of students often struggle to find few scholarships in which they qualify amid the sea of scholarships online. For students at any point in their undergraduate career, Scholly can save thousands of dollars if students simply pay the 99 cents, enter their demographic information, and apply to the list of scholarships in which they qualify.

In fact, even high school seniors looking into colleges could benefit from Scholly. By looking into available scholarships in high school, students may open themselves up to choosing to attend schools that they may prefer, but are pricier. Plus, there are some scholarships that offer money for excelling in all sorts of different areas and doing almost anything, regardless of race, class, or GPA. One such scholarship that I have heard of was a $1,000 scholarship for college given to a couple that attends their high school senior prom in a dress and tuxedo made entirely out of duct tape. High school students who can prove that they spent their prom in duct tape simply receive a check in the mail to use towards college. On top of this odd scholarship, there are a lot more available. There are even some types of scholarships that run on a lottery system. One scholarship I applied for was a one where $1,000 are given out at random each week to whoever has their name chosen at random. While it is possible that you may never win the scholarship, there is no cost to enter your name into the drawing. Therefore, students have nothing to lose. Scholly connects students to these types of scholarships too, so if students want to reduce their costs, they can easily do so.

Overall, while it may seem that the 99 cent investment on “just another app” may be a waste of money, Scholly can pay off big time for many students. While there are a lot of different scholarships available online, many students don’t have the time to search through all of them looking for the few that they qualify for. Scholly, on the other hand, makes this job simple and available at your fingertips instantly. In all, Scholly will definitely succeed in reducing the cost of education for many students, all through its innovative use of technology.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How LearnFlow is Addressing the Problems of the Education Field

By Sean Scarpiello

I recently received an email from one of the co-founders of LearnFlow discussing some of the problems that they see in the field of education and how LearnFlow is working to end these problems. The issue that LearnFlow has addressed and is working towards fixing is the lack of practical working skills among many graduates. This does not only mean that students who graduate high school are lacking the skills necessary to succeed in the working world, but also many college and graduate level students. While these types of problems continue to exist in the field of education, there are few measures done to rectify this problem, so I am happy to see that start-ups such as LearnFlow are in place to help.

To address this problem further, I myself have seen these issues exist within the education field. As my friends and I prepare to graduate college and enter the working world, not one of us has any real marketable skills. While we know how to critically think, write papers, and pass exams, working for a company requires few of these academic skills on a daily basis. Instead, my peers and I may enter jobs and struggle during our first few months of working to figure out how to succeed in our positions. Even in the stereotypical jobs of working in an office or in a cubical, there are many tasks that college and graduate level students are unfamiliar with. For example, simple tasks such as developing business contracts, negotiating techniques, and organizing business functions are new to many graduates. For many high school graduates who directly enter the workforce, this can be difficult as well. For this reason, I respect and support many of the students who enter technical schools after high school. While entering a technical school to train to be a plumber, mechanic, electrician, or chef often comes with a negative stigma, technical students who have been working in the real world have much more practical experience and skills than fresh college graduates. Beyond this, they can still do well for themselves financially as society will always need to have these occupations filled.

In light of all of this, the start-up LearnFlow is aiming at eliminating this problem which is largely unaddressed in the field of education. After a quick visit to LearnFlow’s website, it is clear that LearnFlow offers students many different types of programs to correct these issues. For example, there are programs for MBA candidates, engineering projects, and industrial and technology workshops. There are even programs directed towards educational institutions that instruct colleges how to teach their students in ways in which their students are more likely to succeed in their careers. Plus, there are lessons that guide students through certification programs. This type of instruction can definitely help out students looking to work in fields such as healthcare or social work where there is a complicated certification track to complete before beginning to work.

Overall, I am happy to see that there are people who are addressing the problem of inexperienced and unprepared graduates entering the workforce. By working to rectify these problems, I believe that there will be many more graduates who will be more apt to succeed in their jobs. Whether this is for students working in an office with a computer or telephone all day, or students training to become EMTs, nurses, or technicians in a hospital, the success of these workers will mean success for us all, so I feel LearnFlow will be extremely beneficial to many graduates.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

From Today's Wall Street Journal


Kim Ki-hoon earns
$4 million a year

in South Korea, where he is known as a 

rock-star teacher —
a combination of words not typically heard in the rest of the world.
Mr. Kim has been teaching for over 20 years, all of them in the country's private, after-school tutoring academies,
known as hagwons.
Unlike most teachers across the globe,
he is paid according to the demand for his skills—and he is in high demand.